Step One of the Japanese citizenship process is apparently sitting on a blue plastic bench in a frigid concrete government building staring at the number in your hand. Mine was 12. This was a semi big deal, not the number but the whole procedure, since it meant renouncing U.S. citizenship and basically scotching my chances of ever living or working again in the greatest country on earth. But since I’d been in Japan this long and it was looking like I’d eventually die here, I figured Hell, might as well go all the way. I mean, people get face tattoos, undergo plastic surgery, get married, have kids…maybe I needed to put an end to this hedonistic Peter Pan existence and start screwing up my life too. Can’t just keep on having fun forever, right?Continue reading “Applying for Japanese Citizenship”
The first time I had a white kid in my English class, I couldn’t stop staring at him. He was floating among a sea of Asian faces in our sweaty, countryside classroom. I rattled my head and gazed briefly out the window. Steam was rising from the mountains in the distance, and in the foreground a line of wild monkeys dashed across the schoolyard, heading for the pool. Japan’s a weird place. I looked back at Keita, with his curly blonde hair, struggling to pronounce the U.S. states.
“Flolida,” he said.
“Florida,” I repeated, like Please tell me you’re joking.
“Folida?” he said earnestly, his little eyes welling with tears.
“Can you say ‘Miami’?
“Perfect. From now on, just say that.” Continue reading “Japanese Racism”
Fitting in in Japan
Now, here’s a conundrum for you: let’s say that you’re working in a Japanese office, and it’s the end of the day. Of course, all the Japanese folks are typing like mad, as they’ve done since dawn. You want to be a team player but Hey, it’s 6 p.m., and let’s add that it’s Friday and you’ve been at work since 8:30. What to do?
A reader named thompson recently put it like this:
Everyday, after 8 hours, can I just stand up, say “sorry for going early” and then “HAHAHA, time for japaneseruleof7!!!” while walking out with big steps while ignoring that feeling that someone wants to stab you?
And maybe the bigger issue is: are you going to move to Japan and be a perpetual outsider, or not? Not be “that gaijin,” and try to actually fit in? Let’s see what Magic 8-Ball has to say. Continue reading “Fitting in in Japan”
Avoiding Meltdown in Japan
Self-improvement is one of my long-standing goals. You know, striving to be a better human being and all, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Basically like Schwarzenegger in The Terminator, only without the scary eyes, and slightly more buffed.
Fortunately, I accomplished that goal in 2004, which was good because it freed up lots of time for other, nobler pursuits, like studying Japanese and drinking beer. Then I moved to Japan and everything got nuked to zero. Continue reading “Avoiding Meltdown in Japan”
Japan Wins Every Sport in Winter Olympics
Last week, I ate school lunch in the staff room, sitting at a table with plates full of mini omelets, rice, daikon salad, and some goo of tofu mixed with beans, which is rather redundant, if you think about it. Well, probably best not to think about it, actually. Plus a slice of orange for desert.
“Seeroi sensei,” asked the school nurse in Japanese, “Do you like green tea?”
“Yeah sure,” I said. I mean, who doesn’t like tea?
And they all laughed. Continue reading “Japan Wins Every Sport in Winter Olympics”